I marvel at the talented people I see, barely into their twenties, who are plunging headfirst into the entrepreneurial sphere. They’re armed with infinite vigor and an inspiring sense of hope.
But let’s not overlook those who have bloomed a little later in life. Some people discover their passion for photography in their 40s, 50s, or even beyond, proving that creativity has no expiration date.
Advantages of Being a Photography Late-Bloomer
Is there such a thing as too old for a career in photography? The narrative surrounding entrepreneurship and pursuing one’s passion often centers on the young—the millennials and Gen Z-ers, who are presumed to be most in tune with current trends and technologies.
But creativity and the desire to build something of your own are not confined to any particular age group. Thus, it’s essential to recognize that starting a new career or venture at a later stage in life comes with its own unique advantages:
- “Late bloomers” in the photography industry (or any field, for that matter) usually bring a wealth of life experience and emotional intelligence. This maturity can translate into deep and meaningful connections with clients.
- Older entrepreneurs often have a more extensive network built over years of professional and personal relationships. This network can be invaluable when starting a new venture, offering opportunities for collaborations, partnerships, or client leads that younger entrepreneurs might have to spend valuable time building from scratch.
- Gear can be costly. Although it’s not a universal rule, people in their 30s, 40s or older often have greater financial freedom; whether it’s career advancements that have led to higher salaries or the completion of long-term financial responsibilities like home loans, you’re more likely to have discretionary funds at your disposal.
- Photography encourages you to move more and exercise. As we age, maintaining regular physical activity becomes increasingly vital. Carrying your camera with you can add a layer of interest to your strolls, and aiming to capture specific scenes can actually become a form of exercise in itself, offering various health advantages.
So, the question isn’t so much “Is it too late?” but rather “How can I use my unique advantages to make this new path successful?”
How To Start Photography Later in Life?
While going for photography can be really fulfilling, we should also look at the challenges and things we must consider when taking this path. So it’s crucial to approach it with a strategic mindset.
Let’s see what you can do to become a photographer later in life.
1. Let Others Motivate You
A supportive community can be a lifeline in any new endeavor, particularly in a field as subjective and creative as photography. Not to mention some photographers can be more introverted than others, but that doesn’t mean they should give up their passion.
Encouragement and constructive criticism from trusted people can significantly boost your progress and motivation.
Share your early work with a select group of friends, family, or even online communities that are genuinely interested in your growth. Their feedback can offer new perspectives and even technical tips you might have yet to consider. Also, networking with professionals can provide you with invaluable industry insights.
2. Make a Clear Plan — And Follow It
Photography is both an art and a skill, requiring both creativity and technical proficiency. Developing a clear roadmap can help you systematically improve and tackle various aspects like understanding your camera, mastering lighting, post-processing, and so forth.
Set achievable goals with deadlines, such as completing an online photography course in a month or mastering portrait photography in three months. Check off these goals as you meet them, and adjust your plan as needed.
3. Choose Your Niche
Before picking the photography that best represents you, explore different photography genres.
There are many photography niches—portrait, landscape, commercial, wildlife, etc. Your choice will not only define your career but also allow you to focus on specialized skills and tools. Picking a photo niche strengthens your portfolio and helps you stand out in a crowded market.
Example: If you want to be a landscape photographer, invest in a wide-angle lens and plan trips to photogenic locations. Study the works of masters in this niche, follow relevant blogs, and gradually build your landscape photography portfolio.
4. Have a Backup Plan
While it’s good to be optimistic, a backup plan ensures you have something to fall back on. Photography equipment is expensive, and freelancing income can be inconsistent, especially when starting out.
Continue with your current job or another stable income source as you build your photography career. Alternatively, have a financial cushion that can cover at least 6-12 months of living expenses.
5. Don’t Get Discouraged
Photography is a competitive field, and initial setbacks are almost guaranteed. You might face rejection, harsh criticism, or even self-doubt. But remember that every professional was once an amateur, and every expert was once a beginner. Stay in the game!
When faced with failure or criticism, take it as an opportunity to learn. Go back to your work, analyze what went wrong, and work on improving it. Seek mentorship or join photography workshops to overcome specific challenges.
Photographers That Embraced Photography Later in Life
How old is too old to do photography? The stories of photographers who started their journey later in life are an inspiring testament to the ageless nature of creativity and the human spirit.
Here is a deeper look into some of these personalities:
Bill Cunningham dropped out of Harvard and originally started in the advertising industry. It wasn’t until his late 30s that he pivoted into serious photography.
Primarily working for The New York Times, Cunningham became iconic in fashion photography, especially street fashion. His column “On the Street” was incredibly popular.
Cunningham had an uncanny ability to capture the zeitgeist of the moment. He wasn’t as concerned with designer labels as with genuine self-expression. His candid shots often depicted the cultural mood of New York City.
Working as a nanny for most of her life, Vivian Maier took up photography as a private endeavor. She didn’t receive recognition until long after her death when her work was discovered in an abandoned storage locker.
Maier’s vast body of work mainly focuses on street photography. Her photos are now the subject of multiple documentaries and exhibitions. Maier had a knack for capturing the human condition. Whether it was a photo of a homeless person or children at play, her shots were evocative and deeply emotional.
Charles Jones was a professional gardener who took up photography later in life, around his 50s. His works were ignored until discovered in a car boot sale decades after his death.
Jones’s photography mainly focuses on plants, showcasing them in a way few had seen before. His photos are often compared to paintings because of their tonal richness. He brought out the beauty and complexity of simple plants, capturing them as formal studio portraits.
Kimiko Nishimoto took up photography at 72 and quickly gained international attention. Her work often features humorous and whimsical self-portraits. She even had her first solo exhibition at 89, proving it’s never too late to start a new chapter in one’s creative life.
Kimiko Nishimoto’s work mainly focuses on humorous and quirky self-portraits. Using digital editing techniques, she places herself in various fantastical or everyday situations, from riding a broomstick like a witch to being caught inside a trash bag.
Bill Yates had been an amateur photographer but became serious about it in his 60s. He is best known for his “Sweetheart Roller Skating Rink” series, which was actually shot in the 1970s but not discovered until he stumbled upon the negatives decades later. The rediscovery led him to a new, full-time commitment to photography.
The 100-Year-Old Photographer: Brad Bradley
Brad Bradley is a living testament to the longevity and evolution of sports photography. His seven-decade career started in the post-World War II era. Remarkably, it continues into the digital age. He is best known for his continuous coverage of the Cotton Bowls.
Brad Bradley, alongside Jim Laughhead, revolutionized sports photography by creating the “huck ‘n’ buck” action pose for football players. But Brad Bradley’s work transcended the football field, capturing iconic moments and figures across multiple sports. His portfolio includes famous poses, such as Dick Butkus’ “Death Dive,” which have become cultural artifacts.
Yes, engaging in creative endeavors like photography can indeed enhance cognitive functions. The need to focus, remember settings, and visualize compositions exercises your brain, making photography not just an artistic pursuit but also a cognitive workout. Engaging in such activities is often recommended to keep the mind sharp as one ages.
Photography is a universal language that transcends age barriers. Older photographers can use this medium to connect with younger generations by capturing moments that resonate universally. This intergenerational connection can also be educational; younger folks can keep you updated on the latest tech trends while you impart wisdom on storytelling and technique honed through life experience.
Though photography is a versatile art form, styles that don’t require intense physical activity may be more comfortable for older beginners. For example, macro photography, portrait shoots, and still life photography can be less physically demanding than wildlife or adventure photography. However, the best style is the one that you’re passionate about, regardless of age.
Modern technology has made photography more accessible than ever. With user-friendly interfaces and an array of automated options, today’s cameras are well-suited for beginners of all ages. Additionally, digital platforms offer online courses and community forums where older adults can quickly pick up skills and seek advice, making the learning curve much easier to navigate.
How old do you have to be to be a photographer? As we’ve seen, the answer is nuanced.
Starting a career in photography later in life could actually be a boon—you bring a wealth of life experiences that can add depth and meaning to your work. Remember, it’s never too late to rewrite your story. Sometimes, the most captivating chapters come in the middle or even at the end of your life.
But if you’re unsure where to start, our articles at OhMyCamera are easy-to-understand guides that will make the path easier for you, no matter when you choose to begin your journey.